It’s hard to imagine that veterinarians once called a standout agility dog “too wild to evaluate,” but it’s true. And thanks to the hard work of Sue Vold of Leavenworth, Kansas, that rescued dog is now a titled competitor.
An All-American Dog, 4-year-old Wushu MX MXJ MJB (known as “Wushu”) had previously struggled with behavioral issues and showed signs of having been abused. With hard work and an unbreakable bond, Vold and Wushu began participating in agility events together. Now, the pair will compete at the 2023 AKC National Agility Championship, taking place from March 16 through March 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Wild, Wild Wushu
Vold’s road to agility was unexpected. Years ago, when her family first brought home a rescued dog, they discussed the best ways to channel their new pet’s energy. Vold’s daughter was the one who expressed interest in agility. “I was just the tag-along, and supported her, and went to training with her, and went to dog shows with her. And then when that dog passed away, and she’d gone off to college, I went looking for another one immediately,” Vold says.
For her next dog, Vold, a real estate agent, chose an energetic mixed breed. “We had rescued Yaso; he was six months old,” she recalls. “He came with his own set of baggage, and I started doing agility with Yaso just as a way to bond with him initially, and give him something to do because he was filled with energy.” But when their next dog developed Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Vold began searching online for a new playmate for Yaso.
“And when I saw Wushu’s picture, I said, ‘Gosh, he looks kind of like Yaso,” she recalls. “And I went and did a meet and greet and took Yaso along, and ‘Wu’ was just a young bundle of energy, and I didn’t see any issues. The two of them got along great, and I thought, all right, this is exactly what Yaso needs.”
When Vold read his vet reports, “too wild to evaluate” was written across the top in big capital letters. Over the next few months, certain behaviors became more apparent. No one could touch his collar, and though he went in his kennel willingly, he went to the back and bared his teeth if someone came close. “It became evident that that was not his safe place, but that was a place that maybe people had not been nice to him.”
Agility Makes All the Difference
Based on her experience with Yaso, Vold decided to see if Wushu would take to being an agility dog as well. She had equipment already in the house, so she started working with him. It immediately stuck. She enrolled him in a class so that he could get him more socialized and be around other dogs.
Working with instructor Mickey Rabeneck of Northland Agility in Parkville, Missouri, Vold and Wushu began to make progress. “We got into class and Wu, he loves it,” she says. “He goes out there and he does nothing. Some people will find it annoying; I find it entertaining. He’s so happy when he is running.” A vocal participant, Wushu will utter “little, high-pitched, squealy barks” while he’s running,” Vold says, adding, “He’s just out there having a ball.”
Vold notes that Wushu sometimes toes the line between professionalism and exuberance. “He just goes out there and he looks pretty cool and chill, until he starts running. And then he kind of loses his mind. I guess the best word is ‘fearless.'” In one trial, he went up to the A-frame and launched over it like a slalom jumper. He hit the ground, rolled, came up barking, and indicated he wanted to continue. “So sometimes he does the unexpected.”
And today, Wushu is a different dog from the one who first joined the Vold home. “Wu is now a very loving lap dog. My mom, who stayed with us when she had hip surgery, said, ‘He’s the one that just laid beside me and just, he’s got a special place in my heart.'”
Demonstrating Years of Hard Work
Vold is thrilled to be participating in NAC. There, she’ll be competing with two dogs: Wushu and one owned by her instructor. “I always looked forward to getting there with Wu—well, any of them really,” she admits. “But he’s near and dear to my heart.”
“It’s special to me that he’s going to have a chance to be in the limelight,” Vold says. “Of course, I hope we are in the finals. Don’t know what’ll happen, but I’m hoping that we’re there. Certainly, he has the drive and the ability, depends if we put it all together.”
Finals of the AKC National Agility Championship will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 on May 8, 2023.